Mark Eaton's NBA strides noted; Bud Grant was 2nd in pro wins
Putting one little word after another and whatever became of Marvelous Marv Throneberry? Asked about the tremendous improvement in center Mark Eaton's game over his rookie season (he leads the NBA Utah Jazz in blocked shots), Coach Frank Layden replied: ''We did something last summer that somebody should have done 10 years ago. We taught him fundamentals. When you're 7 ft. 4 in. tall the way Mark is, people somehow get the idea that all you have to do to be great is show up. Well , it's not that easy. You still have to learn how to play the game.''
Layden, whose surprising Jazz are still in first place in the league's Midwest Division, doesn't think his team will be much of a factor in the playoffs. Frank feels the NBA's regular season and the playoffs are so different that a team that has never been there before is at a distinct disadvantage. Layden, whose one-liners are almost as good as Henny Youngman's, fired this one off the last time the Jazz were in Los Angeles and Laker coach Pat Riley's name came up. ''We're both Irish and we're both good looking. The only difference I can see is that he buys clothes and I find mine!'' Grant was second only to Halas in pro wins
Most of the stories that surfaced recently when Bud Grant resigned as Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings were careful to mention his team's four Super Bowl appearances (all losses). What they didn't mention was the fact that only the late George Halas, founder of the National Football League and the Chicago Bears, owned more coaching victories at the pro level. While it may be important to some to note that only 161 of Bud's wins came in the NFL (the rest were earned in the Canadian Football League), Grant obviously would have been a success anywhere he coached. Had Grant talked more freely with newspapermen over the years about his teams, he might have enjoyed as big a press as George Allen or Vince Lombardi. Apparently Bud never felt the publicity side of the game to be that important. Said Carl Eller, an All-Pro defensive end who played under Grant for eight years: ''Bud was an even-tempered guy who let his players get emotional but stayed pretty much on the low-key side himself. One thing he didn't do was burn you out in practice.'' Innovative hockey coach; USFL has hurt NFL
Roger Neilson, who only days after being fired by the NHL Vancouver Canucks replaced Don Perry as coach of the Los Angeles Kings, is considered an innovator. While coaching in the minors, Neilson once pulled his goalie on a penalty shot and substituted his best defenseman, telling him to pick up the shooter as soon as he passed the blue line and try to either block the shot or take the puck away. The ploy worked then - and three more times before the league changed its rules and made it mandatory for the goalie to defend on penalty shots.
Even if the United States Football League eventually folds, which it could if it doesn't get the kind of lucrative network TV contract it sees in its future, it has already cost the established NFL a ton of money. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle summed it up during Super Bowl week when he told reporters: ''We've learned from the past that when there are competing leagues, the result is escalating salaries and litigation.'' The USFL plans to continue its raids on NFL quarterbacks whose option years are about to run out. Lasorda warns drug-users of ruined careers
Manager Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is writing a monthly column for The Sporting News, came out swinging against drugs in his first article. Wrote Lasorda in part: ''I may be old-fashioned, but I cannot understand why players become involved in drugs, knowing what the consequences will be. They are putting themselves in a position where they can ruin their careers and their lives. I'm still looking for someone to tell me that taking illegal drugs makes you a better player; makes you a better hitter, or enables you to run faster. In retrospect, it's a fact that absorbing illegal drugs takes away from all of the above.'' The Dodgers, after following a policy of giving only one-year contracts to their managers over the past 30 seasons, finally broke with tradition in time for the 1984 campaign. Lasorda, after having signed seven one-year contracts, finally got a three-year pact. Walter Alston, the man Tommy succeeded as Dodger manager in 1977, signed 23 consecutive one-year contracts and never said boo about it. Goose's golden contract; Righetti in bullpen?
The minimum value of Goose Gossage's contract with the San Diego Padres reportedly is just under $10 million for five years. But with incentive and deferred payment clauses, it could total around $16.5 million. However, Padre owner Joan Kroc's personal fortune, which was estimated at $800 million at the time of her husband's death, is said to generate $10 million a month in interest. In his six years in New York, Gossage helped the Yankees win three division titles, two pennants, and one World Series. His only previous year in the National League was 1977, when he had an outstanding season capped by 11 wins, 26 saves, and a 1.62 earned run average for Pittsburgh.
With Gossage gone, the Yankees are starting out in spring training this year with the idea of using Dave Righetti in relief, but most scouts I have talked with are convinced that the hard-throwing left-hander will ultimately be returned to the starting rotation. ''This kid is a stopper-type pitcher, in addition to being only 26 years old,'' said one scout. ''I don't care how good Righetti might be in the bullpen, you don't pull that kind of insurance against a losing streak out of your rotation.